Bethlehem and Kenosha
This week two different towns are making news. For Christians, Bethlehem is on our minds as we start our preparation for Christmas through the Advent Season. This Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. Kenosha, Wisconsin, also made the news this week that the almost all-white jury did not hold Kyle Rittenhouse responsible for killing two people and maiming another. The reasons for as to why these two cities on our minds cannot be more different.
Bethlehem represents birth and new life, while Kenosha represents death. Bethlehem is the city where hopes of the people are fulfilled, while Kenosha is the city where hopes of people were killed. Bethlehem opens doors of the grace of God to be present among the people, while Kenosha closes doors of friendship with neighbors. People came to Bethlehem because something wonderful has happened there, while people will avoid Kenosha because something terrible has happened there. Bethlehem represents the hope for justice, while Kenosha represents the death to justice.
Kenosha now reveals that the U.S. is really a wild west. What happens in the wild west is that a stranger (a teenager from Illinois) comes to town with his guns (semi-automatic military assault rifles designed for killing) and challenges peaceful townspeople who are minding their own business to a duel out on the street. He confronted and threatened the peaceful protestors exercising their constitutional right because he disagreed with them. In the western movies, the innocent and killed on the main street (two men are killed, and one is left disabled for life), and the sheriff forms a posse and chases him down, and hangs him on a tree to execute justice. This is where the similarity ends. The injustice claimed him innocent (because he is acquitted, he cannot be retried), and he rode a white horse (probably a dark sedan) into the sunset. He is now free to do it again and probably will do it again as he has now been empowered to kill as he wishes.
However, I was left wondering if the jury would have reached the same conclusion if it was a black teen. As a matter of fact, daily, we have black teens being imprisoned for life for just having a gun or being nearby a victim of gun violence. In a country where being black is a crime, a murderous white teen is whitewashed as being misguided and having made a mistake, even though his hatred for those who disagreed with him was evident. With shedding a little tear, showing the white fragility, the white privilege was exercised, and he was set free.
As I am writing this, we are awaiting the verdict on three murders of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was killed for being black and jogging. While we hope for righteous justice, I am afraid that the verdict will once again claim that white men have the right to kill a black man in the U.S. I guess my life as an Asian North American for more than half a century has left me realistic, not hopeful.
Amid the rise of racism, violence, and hatred, belief in Bethlehem represents a little light of hope. A little town that was seen as a backwater, nothing special, a walk through town, Bethlehem had always hung onto the stories of King David being born in their town. Mind you, he may have been born there, but he did not live there, nor did he rule from there. Their claim to fame was that a prophet once, just once, mentioned them. The Hebrews believed that the Anointed One would come from the linage of their king and their favorite king was David. Therefore the prophet claimed that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.
The reputation of a city is often based on the events that occur in that place. While Kenosha made the national news as a dangerous place that everyone should avoid, people remember Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Anointed One. While Kenosha hopes that people will forget their town, the people of Bethlehem hope that people will remember their town.
This Sunday, we will look at Bethlehem and what it means for us to remember the birth of Jesus.